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The Art Of Linking

There is a subtle yet important art in making links on the web. I'd like to share a word of two about it. Some people (like web designers. bloggers and other weird creatures) make links daily while the others do it every now and then. But we all do it sometimes. I hear you asking why should that be important at all and why would you care, especially if you are in the latter group. Here's why and here's how.

Linking is a part of literacy

Almost as spelling and proper punctuation, linking is a part of one's literacy. Think of it as putting the words in parenthesis. You don't just throw them in there, right? You put them nicely so they flow with the rest of the sentence. It's a matter of style and readability of your text. 

Good linking makes the Web a happier place

There are creatures, actually small programs, called web spiders. They crawl the web, all of the billions of pages, reading it. They jump from one page to another via the links we make. Spiders are essential for the search engines. They fuel them with all the pages they discover and, more important, they tell them what the pages are about. 

Spider is a pretty dumb creature. Unlike us, they can't just read the page and figure out what it's about. That part of the job is done by other programs worth thousands if not millions of dollars. They use all kinds of data that spiders gather about the page. Among others they use the text that is linked, also known as anchor text. E.G. if a spider runs into how to make links it will assume that the page linked is a tutorial about linking. Simple as that. 

So, please, give the spiders data they need. We all use the search engines. And by all means, don't ever put the link under read here or click here. You aren't from the past. Spiders probably think there is something very important to humans called here, that everybody's talking about. Some kind of holy grail or something.

Other deadly sin of linking is placing the URL of the page inside the text. Like in http://www.blahblah.something/ …. That looks really ugly. 

chainsphoto by Unai Goikoetxeta

So, how to do it?

Well, it's a matter of style, so there is no definitive set of rules. Except the "not here" and "no URL" rules, of course. But there are some guidelines. 

  • Make the link flow with the sentence. If the text is printed, text over the links should still sound natural. 
  • Anchor text should give some information about what's "behind" it. And that information should be useful to both humans and search engines. Include keywords.
  • What you need is usually in the title of the targeted text.
  • Try to make it concise but don't force it. 

Yeah, I know it's not much. As any art, this one takes some time to make perfect. And you will probably benefit more from the examples than from some short bulleted list. Here's the short paragraph so you can get the idea.

I started this blog three months ago. I wanted to do a random blog, one that doesn't explore one fixed subject but gives me the freedom to write about what interests me at the given moment. But, knowing myself, I knew there will be politics, IT, religion and some tutorials.

Politics section started after French president proposed a bill to forbid muslim women to wear veils. A few days later, the first tutorial about remembering dreams appeared. Blog was running nicely so I tapped into writing about cyberspace. As soon as I published my reasons why I can't leave Facebook, Facebook did it's magnificent betrayal of user privacy. So the post continued into the series. I wanted to see how Facebook privacy would look like outside of the web and then how our future will be with social networks. Good news in those days was the announcement of a new, open-sourced social network: Diaspora

OK, I'm not going to digest three months of blogging here. Use the links and explore yourself :) But hopefully, this paragraph helps. I'm aware that the list above is not complete, so if you have an advice or two, please share them in the comments. 

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